Hook and Bullet Club

by Nick Wognum

Mary and I accepted an offer to go along on a pontoon boat ride on Lake Vermilion. We would join up with the Ronn family for an afternoon of boating and fishing along with a nice picnic lunch.
We met at Pike Bay Lodge, a very well kept and nicely run resort. The owner met us at the dock and talked shop while everyone came aboard.
He said he pays his help $15 an hour and struggles to get young people who want to work. For his cabin cleaners he raises the rate to $20 an hour. Same problem, can’t get workers.
“I have one kid who called and said he didn’t want to come to work that day because it might rain. So here I am driving the riding lawnmower and getting a sunburn,” he said.
Tourism is a funny business. It brings in people to the area but the area can’t always support the added business. When we had class sizes of over 100 kids, there were plenty to choose from. Today our class sizes are down to 40 or lower.
Tourism jobs in this area exist in the summer almost exclusively. That means you have three months to make money, whether you own a business or work at one.
For the owner of Pike Bay, he was both owner and worker that day.
We headed out into Big Bay and decided to hug the south shore near Ely Island. We looked for places to fish and tried our luck by some islands near Stuntz Bay.
Fishing from a pontoon boat brings its challenges, including keeping the people who don’t have poles from getting hooked by the people who do.
With the bite not on yet, we decided to get a bite ourselves. This was also a needed bathroom stop for some of the passengers.
Being close to the new Lake Vermilion Soudan Underground Mine State Park we putted up to one of the docks. It’s hard to tell you’re at a State Park from the water since 95% of the park can’t be seen from the lake and vice versa.
For some reason the park is designed with campsites and camper cabins in the woods. Apparently ignoring the miles of lakeshore in the park was part of the plan. Seems strange to us.
We did find a bathroom, right by a small wifi tower. There were also picnic tables to spread out food for lunch.
I walked up to the parking area and was reading some of the signage. One of the signs includes emergency information.
It says the nearest hospital is 35 minutes away. That’s the hospital in Virginia, not Ely. There is no mention of Ely Bloomenson Community Hospital on the park sign.
This shouldn’t be a surprise if you’ve driven into the park. The entrance was moved several miles to the west, adding to the cost, as a paved road was built parallel to the highway. Apparently this is to keep people from going to Ely accidentally.
Despite the visit to the park that doesn’t know where it is located, our trip was a good one. We found a spot where the smallmouth were biting and everyone seemed to have a fun afternoon.
Thanks to Pike Bay for the pontoon boat rental and to Jim and his family for inviting us along.